💊 Merck makes a big purchase; GSK’s UTI antibiotic sees success; Brazil reengineers mosquito population
#320 | Making plastics biodegradable; Making AI tell you to sleep; Making humans hospitable to fungi
Hello, and welcome to another day with The Kable, where diseases of all shapes and forms are taking centre stage.
Today, we’re kicking things off with news of Novartis’ three-year deal with J&J and Legend to produce the latter two companies’ BCMA CAR-T therapy Carvykti. Novartis will supply the multiple myeloma treatment for clinical trials outside of China but will not be involved in commercial manufacturing.
Remember the bacterial contamination which caused blindness and even death in some people who used certain eye drops in the US? The bacterium involved, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is highly drug-resistant and is even transmitting from person to person, infecting people who did not even report using the drops.
In Equatorial Guinea, the WHO says that 6 more lab-confirmed cases of Marburg disease have been reported. This brings the current outbreak’s total to 15 lab-confirmed cases, of which there are 11 deaths. Of the 23 probable cases, all are dead.
In the US, the Omicron variant Arcturus, or XBB.1.16, is making waves. 29 countries around the world have reported cases of this variant.
Meanwhile, the former China CDC head says there is no evidence proving which animal the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from.
In Israel, bird flu has made a comeback after a two-month hiatus. In Chile, a man has been infected with a bird flu variant that has troubling mutations, but experts claim that the threat to humans is still low. In the US, testing of bird flu vaccines for poultry has kicked off. We can expect initial data from a study of a single dose of a vaccine in May and from those of two-dose vaccines in June. Even with trial success, however, it would take a minimum of 18 to 24 months for appropriate vaccines to be commercially available.
Had enough of these viral diseases? Here’s some news of infections caused by Candida auris, fungi that have evolved in response to climate change, gaining the ability to inhabit the human body and cause hard-to-treat diseases.
In Canada, in the Montreal suburb of Terrebonne, four people have been admitted to the hospital with necrotising fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease, in the past 10 days. In 2023, so far, there have been a total of 332 cases in all of Quebec, as compared to 395 cases in all 12 months of last year.
Recently, the WHO issued an alert about Pholcodine-containing cough medicines as they were linked to life-threatening allergic reactions to anaesthesia even when consumed up to a year prior. The UK, Australia, Malaysia and the EU have withdrawn all Pholcodine products from their markets. South Africa is the latest to join this list.
And finally, AstraZeneca has launched the Africa Health Innovation Hub – including partnerships with Kenya’s Tricog Health and South Africa’s Medsol AI - to leverage the latest in science and tech to improve healthcare access across the continent.